Kathy Schrecengost, 61
Author of ‘Kevin in Quarantine’ talks about a lovable sloth and how he finds ways to stay in contact with family during a quarantine
By Mary Beth Roach
Q: Is “Kevin in Quarantine” your first book?
A: Yes, it is.
Q: What prompted you to write this?
A: Quarantine had been going on for a couple of months and I had several friends who were really struggling with not seeing their grandchildren. I got thinking about what I would do with my kids if I were home with them and what kind of suggestions I could give to my friends. I had suggested to one of my friends that she do an exercise class with her granddaughters over Zoom and I had suggested to another friend to read a bedtime story. When quarantine started, I have this full-size sloth (stuffed), Kevin, and I put him in a rocking chair in the window. I had his hand up as if he were waiving. People would be driving by, and they’d stop and they’d wave. It was just so sweet. I just thought about all the opportunities with computers and the exploring and the learning on the zoo sites and that’s kind of where I went with that.
Q: You’re retired, but what did you do prior to retirement?
A: I was a special education teaching assistant for 14 years in the Fulton School District for all those years.
Q: Do you see that your experience influenced the book?
A: One of the things I have always loved doing was reading with the kids and making up stories for them. They love those stories. I’ve had the opportunity to read every afternoon this week (in late October) to grades K-3 individually. I brought Kevin with me; I read the story and the questions they have and their little faces when I’m reading the story — it’s just perfect.
Q: When did you retire?
A: I retired in June of ’20.
Q: So, you had experienced a few months of the pandemic as a teacher’s assistant?
A: Yes, we needed to work with our kids via Zoom. One of the things that worked out wonderfully was reading to them. I also have a friend who’s a speech therapist. Her kids were actually the first audience I had. I had just written the story, had no pictures or anything and I “facetimed” with them. They listened to me tell the story of Kevin without any pictures and they were just adorable.
Q: Did you surprise yourself in writing and publishing the book?
A: The story just kind of came out of me. Once I started thinking about it, it just really started to flow.
Q: What were your expectations in writing the book?
A: I just wanted kids to think about someone else going through what they were going through. I also wanted to let the moms and dads know I understand how hard it is for them. Maybe they can find a way to get on these zoo sites, follow these zoo cams.
Q: How long a process was it from writing the book, getting it published and putting it on shelves?
A: It took about a year. It took a long time to find an illustrator that I was happy with. It ended up being the daughter of a friend of mine, (Kristen Skinner), which was complete happenstance. Just finding someone that I could explain my vision of Kevin to. He needed to be fluffy, but he needed to sweet. I wanted him to look just like Kevin looks. That was really important. Kevin has this dear, sweet little smile. He’s very approachable. That’s the whole thing. I wanted the kids to relate to him. And kids love sloths.
Q: Do you see any more adventures for Kevin?
A: I had some stuff bouncing around in my head and the different grades I was talking to, they had all these wonderful suggestions on their own. They said, ‘Can you write a book about Kevin goes camping?’ ‘Can you write a book about Kevin goes to the zoo and he meets his cousin?’ I have a lot of wonderful ideas, right out of the mouths of the kids. I think that “Kevin in Quarantine” is going to really have some weight. It’s a simple book and one of the things that was really important to me was that a kid can read it. The only big word is quarantine.
Editor’s Note: For those interested in having Schrecengost do a reading, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org